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House rejects Okonjo-Iweala’s explanation

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Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been summoned by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance which rejected her response to most of the 50 questions on the economy posed to her.

Tax, Federal Government, Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria economy

She is expected to submit her response to additional observations and requests by the Committee on February 20.

The committee vowed that it will “not be frustrated or distracted” from doing its oversight on the executive.

The Abdulmumin Jibrin-led committee has been quarreling with the minister on the state of the economy since December when the minister’s appearance before it was aborted.

Thereafter, 50 questions were sent to her with a deadline. The minister sent her response to the questions after the deadline.

Her response was more than 100 pages but the committee said there are missing gaps.

The Committee in a letter to the Minister with the title: “Re: State of the Economy: Observations, Request for additional Information and Invitation to Investigative Hearing,” expressed its dissatisfaction with the minister’s responses.

“Having gone through your responses, the Committee noted that some questions were either not answered, partially answered, outrightly (sic) ignored or completely misunderstood. The Committee further noted glaring missing gaps in the responses, absence of supporting proofs to assertions and lack of relevant documents to back up the presentation as is the practice in any legislative oversight or investigation,” the letter said.

Jibrin said observations and requests are made on questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, , 35, 36, 37, 39, 41, , 43, 44, 45, 47, and 48 while further details on the following questions will be taken at the hearing: Questions 7, 18, 19, 21, 2, 8, 29, 34, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 49 and 50.

The committee in its observation and request noted: “The Minister did not provide the details of the N4.67 trillion of AMCON’s total debt exposure. She is required to do so with all requisite supporting documents. The Minister is required to also submit a Performance Report for AMCON from January 2011 to December 2013. Just in case things do not go as planned, on whose balance sheet will AMCON’s toxic liabilities be reflected?”

The lawmakers further raised issues on reduction in recurrent expenditure, saying she did not answer the question properly. “How far has government succeeded in making these necessary cuts; and where exactly have these cuts been made in this effort to reduce recurrent expenditure? In other words, based on real amount spent on capital expenditure, how much reduction was made in 2011 against 2010, in 2012 against 2011 and in 2013 against 2012?

“On the Orosanye Report, can the Honourable Minister confirm if the Executive has sent in any bill to the legislature on the streamlining and merging of agencies with duplicative functions, or any other activity in respect of implementing the Report?”

The committee in its additional request wanted to know why domestic borrowings are not tied to any project. “In addition to the answers provided by the Honourable Minister, the Committee would appreciate the provision of the repayment dates of each of the loans, the dates of completion or duration of the projects, and their locations. Also to be provided are supporting documents for the disbursement schedule for these funds and implementation levels of these projects.

“The Honourable Minister is required to submit the detailed performance report, including disbursement schedule and levels of implementation, for each of the projects for which external borrowings were made, since 2011,” the committee said.

The committee also in its observation questioned the N268.3 billion proposed in 2014. “This persistent reduction in the funding of the SURE-P is thought by some Nigerians to be deliberate on the part of government. What is the government’s reason for this persistent poor implementation of the SURE-P and what is the implication on the masses of Nigerians? The Minister is requested to submit detailed Performance Report of the SURE-P since 2012 with accompanying supporting documents.”

On local industries, the committee observed: “The Honourable Minister made generalised statements on the government working to protect local industries/SMEs from their foreign counterparts and domestic operational hazards. The Committee requires specific efforts supported by documentary evidence of what the government is doing or has done in this regard. The Honourable Minister should provide documentary evidence of the disbursements of the FGN’s N200 billion intervention fund to the SMEs she referred to, with the Central Bank.”

On the benchmark it requested: “Given the average price of crude oil at over $100 in the last three years, how much has Nigeria made in excess of the average Benchmark price for these years (2011-2013)?”

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